MINISTRY of Health permanent secretary for technical services Dr Kennedy Malama has disclosed that one case of the deadly COVID-19 Indian variant has been detected in Zambia.

And Dr Malama says government has decided to ring-fence the remaining doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for use as the second dose for members who received the first dose as India is prioritising the production of the vaccine for its citizens.

Speaking during the routine COVID-19 update, Tuesday, Dr Malama said the new Indian variant was detected in a person who travelled from India to Zambia, but added that it was the only case detected so far.

“We have isolated the new Indian Variant B.1.617, in one person who travelled from India to Zambia. This is the only case of the Indian variant detected so far. All stringent public health interventions have been put in place to prevent further spread of this variant of concern from this source. We urge Zambians not to panic but ensure adherence to all the prescribed public health guidelines,” Dr Malama said.

“The Technical arm of our response, the Zambia National Public Health Institute has been coordinating genomic sequencing of the identified SARS COV2 the virus that causes COVID-19 to understand the variants circulating in the country.”

Dr Malama further said government had decided to use the remaining doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a second dose for members who received the first dose.

“Due to the unforeseen circumstances leading to increased COVID-19 cases in India, India is prioritizing the production of vaccines for its citizenry. This development has affected the production of the AstraZeneca vaccines for export and countries including Zambia are likely to encounter challenges in the acquisition of AstraZeneca through the COVAX facility,” he said.

“Therefore, as a country we have made a decision to ring-fence the remaining doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for use as a second dose for members of the public who have already received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. We are actively engaging various stakeholders including African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diplomatic channels, the private sector among others in line with Cabinet approval to mobilize more vaccines for our people.”

Dr Malama however, expressed concern with the continued reporting of COVID-19 cases in various parts of the country including the rural areas.

“The number of new COVID-19 admissions to our hospitals and cases detected through our routine surveillance system are steadily rising, an indication of continued transmission of COVID-19 in our country. Although the outbreak in our country seems to be under control, we remain concerned with continued reporting of cases in various parts of the country including the rural and remote areas. There is a misconception among members of the community that the COVID-19 disease exists only among urban areas. Yet, every district in Zambia has been affected by the COVID-19 as indicated in our daily reports including today,” he said.

And Dr Malama disclosed that out of the over 6,000 people who were screened at the points-of-entry, 45 were denied entry while 98 were admitted to the 14-day mandatory self-quarantine.

“Our point-of-entry surveillance remains on high alert following reports of increasing numbers of cases in other countries including in our region. Out of the over 6,000 persons screened at our points-of-entry nationally, 45 were denied entry, 301 had to undergo mandatory testing and 98 were admitted to the 14-day mandatory self-quarantine,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Malama said the country had recorded 60 new COVID-19 cases out of 4,877 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, with two deaths.

“We recorded 60 new confirmed cases out of 4,877 tests conducted spread across nine provinces. There were no new cases reported from the tests conducted in Muchinga province. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 92,520. On a sad note, we record two new deaths in the last 24 hours, one from the Levy Mwanawasa facility in Lusaka and the other one from Ndola Teaching Hospital on the Copperbelt. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,263, classified as 709 COVID-19 deaths and 554 COVID-19 associated deaths,” said Dr Malama.